Hungary said it received 6,000 doses of Russia’s controversial coronavirus vaccine on Monday, in a new display of Budapest’s maverick vaccine policy.
The announcement comes after Hungary started vaccinations on Saturday ahead of most European Union countries after receiving its first delivery of the Belgian-made Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus jabs.
An acquisition by Budapest and entry into the EU market would represent a symbolic win for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which has been criticized by some experts for its rapid pace of approval and limited publicly available information on its efficacy.
The move by Budapest, often at loggerheads with Brussels over accusations of democratic backsliding, sidestepped the EU’s coordinated approach to vaccinations which began on Sunday across most of the 27-member bloc.
Large-scale deliveries and potentially mass production by a Hungarian firm are possible next year if it proves safe and effective, according to Budapest.
Talks over the Russian vaccine are the latest in a series of moves that analysts say prove Budapest is cozying up to Moscow, including hosting the headquarters of the International Investment Bank, a former Soviet state lender that had ties to the security services.
Hungary has also been criticized by western allies for stymying closer Nato-Ukraine relations, refusing to extradite Russian arms dealers to the US and increasing the country’s dependence on Russian energy imports.